Governor McAuliffe recently announced that the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has been awarded a $1.5 million grant to improve outcomes for students with disabilities.
This support from the United States Department of Education will allow the Commonwealth to expand coaching and training for division and school administrators, teachers and other educators. The $1.5 million award is the first installment of what both federal and state education officials anticipate will be a total of five years of consistent funding.
“Every child deserves an education that prepares them for the future,” said Governor McAuliffe. “This additional support will give our students with disabilities the tools they need to succeed in school and thrive in the new Virginia economy. With this expansion of Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports and our ongoing Classrooms not Courtrooms initiative, the commonwealth is taking concrete steps to ensure students with disabilities are treated fairly in our schools.”
The grant will focus on increasing the number of Virginia school divisions employing evidenced-based strategies for raising academic achievement among students with disabilities, while reducing disproportionate disciplinary action and improving attendance. It will also allow 25 additional school divisions to implement the Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports (VTSS) with technical assistance from VDOE. Currently, 40 school divisions are employing VTSS to meet the academic, behavioral and social-emotional needs of students through data-informed decision making, evidence-based practices, family and community partnerships, and monitoring and evaluation.
“Implementing VTSS requires systemic change at the central office, school and classroom levels,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said. “This grant will allow the department and its VTSS partners to provide the technical assistance and resources needed for 25 additional school divisions to adopt VTSS and implement it with fidelity.”
VTSS’ evidence-based, system-wide practices are designed to improve learning environments in schools by resolving behavioral and disciplinary issues without interrupting instruction for students most at risk of falling behind — including students with disabilities. Students in participating schools are divided into three tiers based on their needs.
“No two children are the same,” said Virginia Secretary of Education Dietra Trent. “If we want our students to reach their academic potential, we need to understand their specific educational needs and provide a conducive learning environment.”
Partners in the initiative include the Virginia Commonwealth University Center for School Community Collaboration; Formed Families Forward, a Northern Virginia non-profit organization supporting families of children with disabilities; William & Mary; Old Dominion University; and the commonwealth’s seven special education training and technical assistance centers.
The award is from the State Personnel Development Grants Program authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The program supports state departments of education in providing training for local administrators and educators in early intervention, instruction and transition services for children with disabilities.
-Submitted by Julie C. Grimes, Communications Manager